Starships will be the future of space travel


“We don’t want to be one of those single-planet species. We want to be a multi-planet species,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said.

On February 10, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told Space that he is “highly confident that [Starship will] get to orbit this year.”

SpaceX is a private spaceflight company that has a goal of establishing a human presence on other planets and other destinations in the solar system—and their newest project, Starship, is set to revolutionize rockets.

Starship is an upper-stage spacecraft that is situated on top of a SpaceX booster called Super Heavy. During the journey from Earth to outer space, Super Heavy will detach from Starship and return to the exact same launch site, ready to be repurposed for another launch. Designed to be fully reusable and to carry both humans and cargo to space, Starship is guaranteed to be among the most powerful rockets ever built. The upper-stage spacecraft had many test flights, but the fully-stacked rocket is yet to lift off.

Sophomore Evelyn Yang, who hopes to become an astronomer one day, describes how inspired she was witnessing new advancements in space travel, like Starship.

“There is so much out there to discover, and it makes me want to discover more,” Yang said. “I want to discover space more [and] discover planets. The new [advancements] fascinate me.”

Starship’s first orbital flight is currently waiting on the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s approval, which Musk anticipates will happen in March. Musk added that the FAA’s approval would make Starship ready to fly in the “a couple of months.”

With ambitions of colonizing Mars, SpaceX can use the help of Starship to carry up to one hundred people at a time.

“[Starship] is the biggest and most powerful rocket created by humankind,” Stanford Associate Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics Simone D’Amico said. “It will change the way we do spaceflight by giving more access to the Moon and Mars and by deploying space assets in large numbers in Earth’s and planetary orbits.”

Musk anticipates that each of Starship’s launches with Super Heavy would cost as low as $2 million, in comparison to previous flights that have a price tag of more than $62 million, allowing SpaceX to be able to make Starship’s flights as quickly as every six to eight hours.

According to NPR, Starship’s initial flights will deliver satellites — which are called Starlinks — into orbit. NASA, however, plans to eventually use Starship to land astronauts on the Moon in 2025 as part of the Artemis program, which works to establish an ongoing human presence on the Moon; Starship can transport the necessary cargo to the Moon, aiding in the establishment of Moon bases and thus contributes significantly in promoting long term space exploration.

The Challenges of Future Space Travel

Although the rocket is well under construction, hurdles still lie ahead in the path of SpaceX. Ranging from radiation to life support, building a functioning rocket with the correct flight maneuvers is only a small part of the voyage to Mars.

“The difficulty is to get the life support when [the astronauts] get to Mars and the ability to get fuel [for the journey back to Earth],” emeritus Stanford Professor of Aeronautics, Astronautics and Mechanical Engineering J David Powell said. “In my mind, [this is] the tough part.”

Musk told CNBC that SpaceX is “not focusing a lot” on how astronauts can receive life support on their round trip to and back from Mars. Musk cited SpaceX’s experience of providing life support to its astronauts in past flights.

“That will be important down the road, but our focus right now is just getting to orbit,” Musk said.

Visions

It is among Musk’s biggest goals to colonize Mars, and he believes that Starships — and their ability to carry the roughly million tons of cargo that are necessary to build a city Mars — will aid significantly in accomplishing this.

If SpaceX manages to overcome every challenge that space travel presents, then humans may one day become a spacefaring species and live among the stars.

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